Choosing a name for your company can be a surprisingly difficult task. It is also a critical one, potentially having the ability to enhance or detract from your product before you have even started. Companies – large and small, can make errors when it comes to this most crucial area of branding. Those mistakes can lead to customer confusion over the underlying product or service, lack of visibility online, and even legal issues involving trademarks and intellectual property.
Below, we will present a range of the most common mistakes that can be made by companies when choosing a name:
- Forcing a Match to Fit a Domain Name & Vice Versa
The consensus is that, yes, you should choose a brand name that matches your website domain name. However, it’s also advisable that you don’t simply settle on your brand name simply because the .com domain is available or cheap. For a start, the pull of .com isn’t what it used to be, given that search engines are more compatible now with alternatives like .co or .io. Using an online brand name generator is a good way to kill two birds with one stone. First, it allows you to brainstorm ideas based on your sector, type of business, and keywords. Secondly, it will also show results with available domain names, allowing you to see what is available. This will also allow you to explore potential rivals, particularly if your chosen domain is taken.
2. The Name is Difficult to Spell, Pronounce, or Recall
It’s always advisable to choose a name that is memorable, easy to spell, and pronounceable. In most cases, shorter is better. Think of some of the world’s biggest companies: Apple, Meta, Tesla, and Amazon. All six letters or less and easy to spell. There’s a reason that Amazin’ Games became EA, Blue Ribbon Sports became Nike, and Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web became Yahoo!. There are also structural reasons for having a short, memorable name – social media handles. Twitter, for example, has a 15-character limit for handles, whereas TikTok has 24. Instagram has 30, and Facebook has up to 50. Having a shorter name will allow you to have universal branding across all social media channels.
3. Descriptive and Overly-Specific Company Names
It’s a branding 101 lesson that your company name should say something about your services, identity, and market orientation. Just one glance at the name PayPal allows us to glean a lot about the company’s core product. The same goes for rivals like Neteller and Cash App. However, it’s important not to get boxed in with too-specific branding, as, among other reasons, your business might expand to other products and services. Netflix, for example, had DVD rentals as the core of its business for more than a decade, but its transition to online streaming was seamless from a branding perspective as it never boxed itself in with DVDs in the brand name. Your brand name can evolve, of course, but it’s often best to reflect an industry rather than one specific product. Indeed, consider that Tesla Inc. was once Tesla Motors Inc. Dropping the Motors tells us that the company wants to be known for more than selling cars.
4. Overly Generic Company Names
A company name must stand for something, even if the context is subtle or indirect. In Greek mythology, Hermes was the messenger of the gods, so it’s a fitting name for the international courier service founded in Germany in 1972. While not everyone will be able to list the Greek gods and their functions, the underlying meaning of the name allows for the building of a narrative for marketing and further branding opportunities. If a name is too generic, you cannot develop those motifs and narratives that tell the story of your business through its name. Moreover, if it’s too generic – let’s say something like “Abacus Services” – potential customers will simply have no idea what your business does.
5. Concentrating on a Short-Term Trend
One beneficial characteristic of modern business is that a product can be created and launched in a remarkably short time. This allows entrepreneurs to capitalize on important trends. Consider, for example, the boom in AI-powered apps and services launched on the back of OpenAI’s success with ChatGPT. And yet, while AI is likely here to stay, there are many other examples of trends that are short-term and that can lead to difficulties with a brand name, potentially leaving it looking dated or out of touch. Of course, all business is about short-term and long-term strategies, but there are pitfalls when focusing too much on the former. For instance, a nutrition company might want to avoid choosing a name associated with a specific dieting trend, particularly if there is a chance that that trend might die away.
6. Not Considering the Branding Opportunities
Brand names should never be static from a marketing standpoint. When choosing a brand name, you should already be thinking about how that name is going to lead to other branding opportunities. That thought process should help you decide on the name. Companies that haven’t thought this through beforehand may struggle to do so in reverse. When it’s done correctly, the brand name is a bottomless well to drink from again and again. Think of how Amazon can develop slogans and marketing campaigns, such as A to Z or the Amazon Smile Logo, which continually callback to the brand name. Sometimes it’s by happy accident, other times by design. But choosing your company name should be done after you have explored the branding and marketing opportunities linked to that name.
7. Not Enough Background Research
There are several reasons to do a lot of background work before choosing your company name. For a start, you can discover that the name is trademarked or is too closely related to another brand. You might also find out if there are negative associations with certain words used in your name, including in international markets. Moreover, it is desirable to do some testing of a company name, particularly on how it would resonate with your target market. Business history is full of anecdotes about companies being named on a whim or by accident, but those are exceptions to the rule. In addition, don’t forget that SEO must be taken into account for company names. Before settling on a final decision, research how people will be searching for your business online.
8. You Spend Too Much Time Thinking About It
While this might contradict everything we have said so far, there is a line of reasoning that says you can overthink your brand name. It’s an important aspect of your business, sure, but it’s also possible that too much tinkering leads to problems. All of the examples above should point to a simple truth – your company name is but a “tactical expression” of your core business. You can spend ages going back and forth, focusing on every aspect of the name, only to end up with something that looks overcooked. Think of the alarm bells that ring when you hear a movie production has had to send the scripts back for a rewrite; you’ll know that there is something deeply wrong at the core. In terms of naming a company and branding, the only answer might be to start over again.